The media horde to greet Kevin Durant, after a morning shootaround at Verizon Center on Tuesday morning before his Oklahoma City Thunder play the Wizards, is the size of an NBA playoff game. And like a pro, he handled every predictable question about himself, his future and his comments about "disrespectful" D.C. fans who cheer for their hometown superstar although he plays for the opponent.
"It's a great feeling knowing that I walked these streets and grew up here and I can inspire so many kids that have the same dreams that I have. It means a lot coming back playing here because I remember coming as a kid catching the train down here to watch the Wizards, Mystics and Georgetown play all the time," said Durant, the second-leading scorer in the league at 30.1 points who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. "To be able to walk on the court as an NBA player it shows the journey I've been on. Hopefully, more kids behind me can do the same thing."
The Wizards are in hot pursuit, though they can't make contact with a player under contract with another team. They'll have more than enough cap space for Durant and to retain Bradley Beal, who will be a restricted free agent, and will have enough money left over to fill in the gaps around them. More than half the roster is on an expiring deal or the team hold's their final-year option which gives the Wizards flexibility.
"I just try to go about every day and just focus on that day. Try not to think about the future too much," said Durant, who missed 55 games last season with a broken foot. "Worry bout that stuff when I get there. Basically I've been saying I don't know for a long, long time. I'm just focused on our team. I'm happy I'm playing again."
Durant, when asked Monday after practice about the cheers he receives when he plays here, said that it makes him uncomfortable and it feels "disrespectful" to the Wizards.
He didn't back off those words but seemed more understanding as he went into more detail.
"I'm not saying anything is wrong with the fans. I'm just looking at it as a player on this side. I wouldn't like it," Durant said. "Fans are going to do what they're going to do. I appreciate all the support that's getting thrown our way. I'm just looking at it as an opposing player. If I was on that team and they came in here and did that I wouldn't like it but hey, fans support us throughout the whole league. They make the league what it is. It's nothing against them. I'm just talking about it as (an opposing) player."
If this game unfolds anything like last season, when Russell Westbrook hit the game-winning shot with one second left in overtime, Durant knows what will happen if it's a Wizards player instead.
"If it's a tight game and they make a big shot, they're going to cheer for their own team," he said. "I know what it is. I'm just trying to focus on our group and help our team win."